Writing saves lives

And that’s not clickbait. Writing saves lives. Actual lives.

So when accountants bring me in and call my work a soft skill, that fucks me off.

But anyway… that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

I’m here to talk about my growing list of names of people whose lives my writing has saved. And how you can do the same.

Actual lives

Last year I overheard a conversation about someone’s toddler with severe asthma. They listed a number of incidents where the toddler was in life-threatening situations because they lived too far away from hospital and even an ambulance. They’d had to drive to meet the ambulance on the side of the road a number of times, because waiting could have been fatal.

Every one of those incidents was a situation that could be resolved with a nebuliser in their home.

If they had that, they wouldn’t have needed the hospital or the ambulance. But they had asked their GP multiple times if one would be provided. He had said no.

Enter: your friendly badass rockstar writer.

The power of written records

I knew that when things are in writing, on record, it’s much harder to say no.

I knew that if you need to advocate for yourself in the medical system, that there’s a powerful approach you can use (thanks, Twitter):

When you ask for a test or an assessment or a medication or a treatment and the GP says no, ask them to put your request and their denial of that request on your file.

It means that if, somewhere down the line, it turns out that you were right to make that request and the GP made a wrong call, there’s a record of that. That’s risky for your doctor. It doesn’t look good.

So, often, you asking for that will make them change their mind. Not always. It’s not a guarantee. But if you do it when you need to, then when and if you need it you have evidence to show:

  1. how you’ve been advocating for your own wellbeing, and
  2. how the system has been responding.

I whipped up a document

So if we go back to the toddler and her asthma, I whipped up a document. I think it took me 17 minutes.

The document was a template which put the family’s request for a nebuliser IN WRITING, and listed recent incidents as evidence to support that request.

The family took the document to the doctor, and HELLO, nebuliser in the home.

Just like that. After months and months of distress and worry.

The document was simple. It was SO FAST for me to throw together.

And so started the actual list of lives my writing has saved.

My list is growing

This week I added one of my daughters’ names to that list.

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve written in the last 2 weeks, cc’ing in the universe, to push back against systems that aren’t providing her with the care she needs.

It has been a battle, I tell you.

But every email I’ve written, every time I’ve hit send, I’ve increased the power of my voice in advocating for her.

I’ve created an evidence trail of what’s been happening, what she needs, and HELD THE PEOPLE AND ORGANISATIONS ACCOUNTABLE.

It’s working.

It’s ongoing.

But at the end of a long day where I’ve added 14 powerful emails to the paper trail and my daughter is still alive and is the safest she’s been in months, I wanted to tell you.

Don’t forget that writing saves lives.

A word of caution

For this kind of writing to be as powerful as possible, you need it to be sharp. And when I say sharp, I mean:

  • TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE. Just making noise in public isn’t enough.
  • Concise, not waffly
  • Factual, matter-of-fact, and not overly emotive
  • Assertive – 100% clear on what the problem is, and what you want done about it
  • It might need a timeframe – eg URGENT response required by COB today
  • And in some cases, or eventually, it might need an or else. You might need to let them know what your next steps will be if they don’t act or respond

You can’t just write and blow off steam and rip people new ones via email and expect that will get you results.

You need firm. Reasoned. Factual. Stripped back. Assertive.

Now, what?

So, m’loves, what in your world do you need a written record of?

What will give your voice more weight when it’s ON THE RECORD?

Cos the written word has POWER. It has WEIGHT. It changes things. It gets heard differently. It gets listened to.

Go and write something that will reclaim your power. And maybe even save a life.

And PLEASE fucking stop calling writing a soft skill.

________________________________________

Are YOU ready?

So, if you’re ready to save lives (or save other people medical bills from when you’ve ripped them a new one and they have to get it fixed, and…and…let’s not go there), how about you download my AMAZING PDF on how to write emails that save lives?

You look smart. Go on.

The stories we tell ourselves

I wonder how many relationships have broken down completely because of a combination of 2 things:

  • An information gap we fill with a made-up story
  • Not asking a simple question to fill that gap with truth
quote-Do we see the stories that we're telling ourselves and question their validity? Pema Chodron

Managing relationships

It’s been an interesting (and glorious) year with my 16-year-old daughter, being privileged to be alongside her as she learns to navigate the world as an emerging young adult. In particular, guiding her as she learns to manage relationships and her contribution to them.

Relationships with teachers, boyfriends, friends, bosses, family.

And one of the things I’ve tried really hard to help her know is this:

When you have fear or a worry, there’s usually a strong element of the unknown. There’s missing information. And what our brain naturally does is build a story to fill that gap. That story might be true or it might be completely fabricated or it might have elements of both.

The trick is for you to be AWARE that it’s a story you’ve built.

And you simply can’t know if it’s a true story or not without asking.

Quote - We are all unreliable narrators, not just in the way we tell our stories to others, but how we tell them to ourselves. -Deb Caletti

Words have power

In her Netflix special Call to Courage, Brene Brown says one of the things all resilient people had in common was a phrase like,

“The story I’m telling myself is…”

So I’ve been guiding her to use phrases like that:

To her boyfriend: When I can see you’re online but you don’t reply to my messages. the story I’m telling myself is that you’ve lost interest in me.

Quote - Assumptions are the termites of relationships. -Henry Winkler

To her teacher: I’m really worried about not passing these credits and in my mind, I’m going to fail everything so I should just give up.

Quote - Don't believe everything you think.  -Byron Katie

To her boss: I’m freaking out that since I injured my hand you’re not going to want me to work for you anymore, and I feel like I’ve let you down.

Quote - Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups...

You have power.

Each phrase is followed by a question:

  • So, can you reassure me?
  • So, can you tell me what you think?
  • So, can we talk about how this is working for you?
  • So, can you help me understand what it’s like for you?
  • So, can you tell me if you’re upset with me?
  • So, can we talk about it?

Every single time, EVERY SINGLE TIME she’s used this approach, she’s very quickly come back to me with some version of, “Everything’s ok now, Mum.”

The conversation was opened.

Quote - I respect a person who is vocal.  Tell me why you're into me.  Tell me why I pissed you off and tell me how I can fix it.  Tell me everything.  Talk.

The information was transmitted.

The gap was filled not with her imagination but with insight from the other person.

And that was the basis of the resolution, or the progress, or the reassurance, or WHATEVER.

Quote - Communication.  Is it time to revisit something that's bothering you?  Ask yourself what evidence you have that its all correct, or how many gaps you've filled with assumptions.

It’s been such a joy to watch.

It’s been such a privilege for her to turn to me for this support and to take on my advice and to report back with excitement when having the right words to use gave her power in her world.

Quote - Words have power, you have power.  -Shelly Davies

I truly believe that one of the key differences between self-aware, self-determined people and everyone else is this:

Self-aware people KNOW when they have facts and they KNOW when they’re filling information gaps with a story they’re telling themselves.

And for you?

Maybe revisit something that’s bothering you. Ask yourself what evidence you have that it’s all correct, or how many gaps you’ve filled with assumptions.

And then go to the other person and try the phrase: The story I’m telling myself is…

You got this, friend.

In terms of mastering your mind

I’m all about how our thoughts are the only thing we can control in life.

We have the ability to decide what meaning we’ll attribute to any given thing, which then dictates its impact on us – how we feel about and respond to it.

For example

As I write this I’m facing my first ever Christmas alone. As in, completely alone. On an island. No children, no grandchildren, no Carver Boy, no siblings cousins nieces nephews.

And I gotta tell you, I’m FINE with that.

I plan to go fishing. And nap. And whatever else the fuck I feel like doing. I’m good with this because I choose to be.

But,

I remember 13 years ago, going through court for parenting arrangements with my second ex-husband (aka “custody”), being told by my lawyer that I’d need to let my ex have the kids every second Christmas.

THAT MEANT EVERY SECOND CHRISTMAS ALONE. WITHOUT MY BABIES.

And I thought I would break.

I thought it was the end of the world.

I brought these babies into the world, and waking up to them on Christmas morning and seeing the joy on their faces as they opened presents and ate junk food for breakfast and just basked in the holiday bliss, felt like the meaning of life.

Surely I wouldn’t survive it.

Until, at some stage, probably with the help of a good psychologist, I chose to survive it.

I chose to remove the “meaning of life” bit of Christmas morning as a mother, and pick another day to be our Christmas. And make that day whatever I wanted it to be – particularly a sleep in, given that I had been sleep-deprived for about 11 years at that stage.

It was a huge lesson. 

Yes, Christmas without my babies could feel like the end of the world. IF I chose that. Or it could feel completely doable if I chose THAT.

It was a lesson I was able to start transferring to many other areas of my life. And that has been POWERFUL.

And you know I’m ALL about people finding power in their world.

Is there something you can reframe? Can you change the meaning you’re giving to it? And by doing so, reclaim some power in your world?